The Sopranos is one of the most celebrated achievements in television history. It pays homage to many great mob feature films like The Godfather while contributing something unique to the organized crime sub-genre. It showed the audience a protagonist with a conscience and feelings he could not understand, which often manifested in violence because of his chosen lifestyle.
The HBO original drama won numerous awards and remains one of the most popular shows ever produced. Its all-star cast, in addition to James Gandolfini, included Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli, and Godfather II-alum Dominic Chianese (Johnny Ola). Fans have taken to Ranker recently to vote each season from worst to best.
Tony Soprano feels the heat of a recession and risks getting involved with his New York allies on several land development ventures but cannot agree on monetary arrangements. With Paulie Gualtieri detained for an extended period, Christopher Moltisanti is given heavy responsibilities which drive him back to drugs and booze. Ralph Ciffaretto’s big mouth lands him in hot water with New York but his prowess in real estate and horse racing gives him a second chance. Uncle Junior’s long-awaited trial gets underway prompting some jury tampering. Just when Tony thinks he’s dodged a major confrontation with New York, another materializes when his extramarital activities are exposed.
Having established itself as the premier cable television event of the week, season four hit the ground running with its premiere episode, “For all Debts, Public and Private,” in which Tony reveals to Christopher who killed his father, Dickie Moltisanti. The mentor-student relationship of Dickie and Tony became the basis for 2021’s The Many Saints of Newark feature film. The season, overall, was a jumble of standalone stories that experimented with several supporting characters, such as Artie Bucco, and his business venture with a Frenchman in “Everybody Hurts.” It appeared to be brewing towards a major confrontation between Tony’s family and a New York “Don,” but instead fell flat, ending with a domestic quarrel.
All hell breaks loose when Tony suffers a gunshot shot wound from a senile Uncle Junior. The turmoil from an averted war with New York leaves Phil Leotardo as acting boss, starved for revenge after the murder of his brother by Tony’s cousin, Tony Blundetto. Phil’s patience dwindles when Soprano captain, Vito Spatafore, flees New Jersey after salacious rumors about his personal life come to light. In the closing episodes of the series, tensions increase when Johnny Sack dies of cancer and Leotardo declares war on the Soprano clan, targeting their senior associates in a winner-take-all showdown that some don’t survive.
The final season of The Sopranos was split into two halves, thereby saving it from being the worst. The first batch focused relentlessly on Tony’s trip through purgatory whilst in a coma and Vito Spatafore’s journey to find himself after he was outed as gay. However, bloated plot points didn’t compare to the final scene in which a sudden cut to black created one of the most enduring mysteries in TV history securing its legendary status. Only recently has creator David Chase confirmed the ambiguous ending was, in fact, Tony’s death.
In the aftermath of the coup de taut against Tony Soprano, the last remnants of Uncle Junior’s crew jockey for position with some meeting their maker. With Junior under house arrest, Tony is unchallenged until Richie Aprile reappears after a decade in prison. Richie’s aggressive “old school” approach to business draws Tony’s ire, but his engagement to his sister Janice makes him untouchable. Meanwhile, Tony’s nephew, Christopher Moltisanti, is disillusioned with his cozy Wall Street hustle and takes a crack at the movie business, only to get shot for his trouble. All roads, however, lead back to Sal Bonpensiero, who is reluctantly moonlighting for the FBI.
Bonpensiero’s storyline from season two felt inevitable yet suspenseful enough to make the audience believe it was possible for him to escape unshaved. His and other secondary characters’ background and interests took center stage with the most extensive being Christopher’s screenwriting ambitions. One of the more notable episodes, “Commendatori,” saw Tony and other senior associates travel to their native Italy. The standout performance, however, is David Proval as Richie, a short but tough adversary playing The Art of War with Tony slowly recruiting allies, including Uncle Junior, in an effort to undermine his position.
Tony Soprano is a troubled gangster. He is torn between his nuclear family and his day job, captain of a DiMeo crime family crew in Newark, New Jersey. He experiences anxiety attacks which land him in the office of Dr. Jennifer Melfi, a psychiatrist. This is taboo within the traditional confines of the mafia as it violates their sacred oath of silence. When Jackie Aprile, the acting boss and Tony’s best friend, dies of cancer, Tony backs his Uncle Corrado “Junior” Soprano for the title of Boss but pulls the strings behind the scenes irking Junior and his compatriots resulting in a power struggle. Tony learns later his narcissistic mother, Livia, whom he put in a retirement home, has influence over Junior and plotted to have her own son assassinated.
The opening act of this beloved television legend hit kicked it into high gear and did not apply the brakes until the closing scene at Artie Bucco’s restaurant. James Gandolfini, a relatively unknown actor at the time, delivered an amazing interpretation of a “family” man conflicted between his angst toward his wife and kids compound by affairs of his “garbage” business. Lorraine Bracco of Goodfellas co-starred as Dr. Melfi, an Italian-born therapist curious enough to take Tony as a client. The first season had many memorable episodes, but “College” stands out the most. It blended a trip between father and daughter whilst Tony secretly searches for a former associate thought to have entered the witness protection program, while back in Newark, Carmela and Father Phil nearly reenact the plot of The Thorn Birds.
Tony Soprano has the freedom he always wanted yet feels alone. His separation from his wife, Carmela, only complicates his daily routine as he navigates multiple crises stemming from a slew of parolees, imprisoned for decades, attempting to break back into the life causing strife between New York and New Jersey. Tony’s cousin, Anthony “Tony” Blundetto, is among them, except he desires to remain legitimate by becoming a massage therapist. However, his freelance work leads to a string of killings that culminate in the death of New York captain Phil Leotardo’s brother, forcing Tony Soprano to sacrifice his favorite cousin.
While the penultimate season of the storied mob drama might have dragged on for a time before an explosive finish, the theme of it was much clearer than in other seasons. It was a contrast between the two Tonys and how their lives might have turned out had Tony Soprano gone to prison and Blundetto didn’t. One Tony is rich and respected, while the other is poor and on the outside looking in. Tony Soprano’s ultimate decision to kill Blundetto reeked of self-preservation and mafia values versus loyalty to blood, making it one of the most shocking and compelling twists in the entire series.
After two years, Tony Soprano has eliminated all his competition and stands alone atop the newly minted Soprano crime syndicate. But that doesn’t mean he is free of headaches. A construction venture puts one senior family member, Ralph Cifaretto, on the fast track to a captaincy, but he has sloppy impulse control. Meanwhile, Tony’s daughter, Meadow, drives him crazy by dating first a student of mixed race at Columbia University, and after a painful breakup, Jackie Aprile, Jr., son of Tony’s deceased best friend. Jackie Jr., however, has ambitions of his own, to become his father and possibly even surpass him to the point of emulating one of his father’s famous crimes that has disastrous consequences.
The series was forced to reinvent itself following the death of Nancy Marchand (Livia Soprano), who had been the main antagonist. Veteran actor Joe Pantoliano joined the cast as Cifaretto and provided what Livia and Richie had provided in the first two seasons, a threat to Tony’s power. Episodes that are remembered fondly include the flashback focused “…To Save Us All From Satan’s Power,” featuring the return of Sal Bonpenserio, followed by Christopher and Paulie’s trek through the “Pine Barrens.” The best element of season three was the contrast between Jackie Jr. and Anthony Soprano Jr. where Jackie Jr.’s struggle to become like his father gives Tony a frightening preview of A.J.’s future and his subsequent quest to save both barely brings one back from the precipice.